The Blog

How do you celebrate?
December 4, 2017

My editor, Candace Johnson, is a sweetheart. When we put The Willpower Workaround up for sale, she offered to help promote it. She sent me a list of questions I could answer at my leisure, and she’d post those answers on her site whenever I gave her the okay.

It took a while. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I did. I saved the Q&A for a special occasion. Toward the end of September I had quite the one-two punch of champagne-worthy developments. Katie and I pulled off a birthday surprise for Darrell that was straight out of a movie. Talk about a memorable scene! The kickoff to that weekend was so off-the-charts special that people I barely know get tears in their eyes when they hear about it.

Not even a week later, Katie was in touch with news of something all three of us had pinned so many hopes on we could barely acknowledge those lest we tempt fate.

“No matter what,” I told Candace, “I am rewarding myself with that Q&A.” So I did. I cranked up some of my favorite songs in my headphones and luxuriated in her great questions. Had I ever had this much fun? Well, yes. See the previous two paragraphs! But this was different. It was my oasis, a way to bask in my own story.

A guest on the show told me there’s a “joyful exuberance” to my work. I’d like to think so! People like Candace make it easy.

Are you getting warmer?
November 30, 2017

flowersHave you ever known someone who complains about people incessantly? As if spending time with them is, you know, the law. It isn’t.

It’s okay to gravitate toward people who make your spirits soar. Your preferences are yours for a reason. It isn’t some cruel joke the heavens played on you to make sure you’re mostly miserable!

You’ll never hear JJ Flizanes say someone hurt her feelings. When she shared that little gem on the show recently I decided that would be me from now on, too.

The concept had been gathering strength already. I’d already decided that if I was around someone who consistently hurt my feelings I’d (1) get some emotional distance, and (2) start plotting my escape.

The key word is “consistently.” I’ve yet to meet the person who keeps calm no matter what, who can look back with satisfaction at being only kind. But if you know people like I do, who are mean on purpose and think the problem is in the noticing, you’re free to reject them. It’s one of the most life-affirming things you can do.

The beauty of this? They don’t even have to know! When you’re with them, pretend like you’re watching a movie. Pretend they’re someone else. Pretend you’re someone else. Act the way you want to feel. “If everything about this situation was different,” you can tell yourself, “it would be great!” It sounds silly, but it works.

It gets more fascinating every time I hear it. People come home from the hospital with doctor’s orders to do this or that (to stay alive!) and then…nothing. They ignore their doctor’s orders.

More fascinating, to me, is how often they make fun of the rest of us for taking care of ourselves.

I don’t get it. Some things are easy! Not all back pain, for example, is debilitating. Keep stretching -- all day, every day. That might be all you need to keep the pain at bay. But if you don’t try it, you won’t know.

If you hold yourself in a sitting pose against the wall for at least a couple of minutes most days of the week, you’ll strengthen the muscles around your knees. If your knee pain is mild, or if you’re trying to guard against even that, voilà. You know, maybe.

I’ve eliminated the pain in my right hand by switching simple tasks, like tweezing, to my left hand.

Some problems are easily solved. What could it hurt to experiment with that idea?

Are you the jealous type?
November 27, 2017

I never get jealous. You can ask Darrell. He’d see it. And he’s struck by how not jealous I am. If someone has something I aspire to, I get to work.

That explains -- in my casual observation, anyway -- what jealous types want. They want what someone else has, but they don’t want to work for it like someone else did.

Which is not to say I worked hard to get the advantages I started with as an accident of birth. I’m with Moneyball author Michael Lewis on that: “Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them.”

Even an inheritance isn’t necessarily a stroke of luck. Which feels better to throw around, money you’ve earned -- or money from Grandma? Earning your keep is thrilling. As is earning the right to call your own whatever you’re jealous of in someone else.

What do you represent?
November 21, 2017

I’m standing in the hallway outside a courtroom in a small town in Illinois, watching my attorney joke around with my soon-to-be-ex husband’s attorney. They’re joking around! About what they’re doing for lunch! On the worst -- or what I thought would be the worst -- day of my life.

I couldn’t get over that. The worst day of my life, and to these lawyers it’s just…Thursday. That’s probably the biggest lesson from that day, if you can believe it. We’re the stars of our lives, but the world doesn’t revolve around us.


That’s one reason, when Darrell and Katie and I met with Dr. Nick Morgan on a snowy winter Wednesday last March, I tried to contain my excitement. It was a very big day in our lives, but to Dr. Morgan? Just another day at the office. As the day wore on I wondered how it compared with days he’d spent coaching other people. Was he having fun? Were we fun to teach?

To hear him tell it, mission accomplished. “What a great family,” he told us. “What a fun day.”

There’s something heartbreaking about big days in the life. All those expectations! Riding on people who are probably distracted, who’d really rather be having their own “big day” somewhere else. But you know what? The more often you keep in mind you’re just one player in the game of life, the more you might be able to help someone forget it’s just another day at the office. You can make someone so glad he came into work he isn’t pining away for his next vacation. Not now, anyway!


photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

If you know me at all, you know I make a habit of experimenting with my life. Not every experiment works, of course. Like my tanning cream fail in college. It was epic. It was such a spectacular fail I was surprised by the energy in my voice when I shared that story on the show recently.

I was also surprised and delighted by how much fun it is to think of being that clueless about anything.

Never mind! Back into the win column it goes!

How will you be defined?
November 19, 2017

Paper or plastic? Plastic, please. And make it a big one!

I love the big plastic bags at Target. Because once you get home and unpack, you have a bag that’s as sturdy as it is useful. That’s why I make a point to get one of them every time we visit.

The self-checkout stations don’t have the big bags, though. So for a long time I just walked over and grabbed one from an unattended regular checkout. I didn’t want to bother an employee who was busy helping other customers.

And then one day an employee came up from behind me and practically smacked the bag out of my hand as she scolded me. I was indeed supposed to have asked (bothered) an employee if I wanted a big bag.

I can’t remember if I said anything. I do remember thinking, “Wow. There are a thousand ways she could’ve expressed the same sentiment without all this yuck hanging in the air.”

Can you guess what I think about every time I see her? And, well, who cares? But you know what is interesting? I’ve never seen the woman smile. Not once. She always gives me the impression she’s about to tear into someone else. They say how you do anything is how you do everything. This gal’s a great reminder to check in with yourself once in a while. Find a way to be happy at least some of the time. Because if you don’t, you aren’t doing the rest of us any favors.